Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Golden Rule and hard hearts

When the Congress was debating the bill to provide relief to victims of the Super Storm Sandy that hit the East Coast last year, Rep. Tom Cole from Moore, Oklahoma remarked that his state was only one tornado away from needing such federal relief itself. He voted for the bill with no strings attached.

Cole's words were prophetic and, unfortunately for Oklahomans, his prophecy came true in a big way yesterday with the massive tornado that hit his home town. Now, Oklahoma will need major help from the rest of the country to recover and rebuild. But that's what we are here for. After all, we here in Southeast Texas are only one major hurricane away from needing help ourselves.

Christians - true Christians - know it as the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It's not a bad rule to live by, whether you are a Christian or not.

In the debate on Sandy relief in the Senate, neither of Oklahoma's senators followed that rule. In fact, quite the opposite. They railed against such federal aid. Sen. James Inhofe called it a "slush fund." Sen. Tom Coburn insisted that any relief that was provided had to be paid for by taking something away from somewhere else in the budget.  They both voted against giving the aid to their suffering fellow Americans.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak. President Obama (who is also president of Oklahoma even if it didn't vote for him) has already declared Oklahoma a disaster area, making it eligible for federal assistance and has assured Oklahomans that they will have all the resources they need at their disposal. What has been the response of Oklahoma's two hard-hearted senators?

Well, I suppose we have to give Coburn the prize for consistency. He is insisting that any help given to Oklahoma has to be taken away from somebody else. Close down those Head Start Centers. Cut the number of Meals on Wheels recipients. Take some of the funds that haven't yet been spent on Sandy relief and give it to Oklahoma. Coburn is very proud of his consistency. One might say his consistent cruelty.

Inhofe, on the other hand, is a full-blown hypocrite which doesn't surprise me at all. He now claims that victims of disaster in his state are very different from victims of disaster in the East. Sandy aid, he says, "was totally different. They were getting things - for instance that was supposed to be in New Jersey, they had things in the Virgin Islands, they were fixing roads there, they were putting roofs on houses in Washington D.C., everyone was getting in and exploiting the tragedy taking place. That won't happen in Oklahoma."  Because, I guess, Oklahoma is just so much more virtuous and deserving.

What he fails to mention, of course, is that Sandy did not only damage New Jersey. It also damaged the Virgin Islands and Washington and places all along the coast. They all needed help to recover. Most Americans did not begrudge them that help any more than we now begrudge Oklahoma help.

The federal deficit has shrunk dramatically since Obama has been president and it continues to shrink faster than at any time since just after World War II, but Republicans like Coburn and Inhofe refuse to acknowledge that and continue to insist on pinching pennies - at least as long as it hurts someone else besides themselves and their friends. God forbid one of their flights should be delayed!

No, Senators, we can afford to be generous to our suffering neighbors. The money's there. In fact, we can't afford not to be generous, because there but for one giant storm are we.

And besides, it is what Jesus would demand of us. You remember Jesus, don't you? That Golden Rule guy?

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